‘How we are taking care of survivors’
By Nnamdi Ojiego
It will be one year tomorrow since the explosion that rocked a Lagos community, Abule-Ado, in Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area. In this piece, Vice Chairman of the Council and member of the investigative committee set up by Lagos State government to unravel the cause of the blast, Segun Idris, speaks on the findings of his panel and developments in the area. The explosion claimed the lives of nearly 30 people while properties worth billions of naira were destroyed. Excerpts:
Your committee was given two weeks to submit its findings. Why haven’t the report been made public?
I am privileged to be a member of the committee set up by the Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and headed by the deputy governor. We were given two weeks to find out the cause of the explosion. Ever since the committee was inaugurated, members have been sitting, looking at how to unravel the reason for the explosion and as well bringing succour to victims. However, shortly after the committee was set up, the country went into a lockdown as a result of the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic. This actually delayed or hindered our work. Last year, our meetings were mostly done virtually. We are trying to meet now to put finishing touches to our work. Some of the materials and information collected would have to go through a lot of forensic analysis and technical examinations. Some of them, we don’t have the facilities to do them in this part of the world. We have to invite experts to examine these things so that we don’t give wrong information.
Part of the committee’s job is to assist those who were affected by the disaster. We have been meeting some of their needs. Some of those who were rendered homeless were relocated to Internally Displaced Persons, IDP, Centre at Igando. And for those who lost their lives, their next of kin were compensated to alleviate their sufferings and also help them with the burial expenses. The committee has also provided medical support in terms of payment of hospital bills for those who were injured. We also helped to restore electricity to the community because the electricity supply in the area was affected.
What the committee has also done is to give a facelift to the area. We started by virtually testing all the affected buildings to know which of them was to be pulled down. We examined all the buildings. Some were pulled down immediately while we told occupants of some to vacate pending the time appropriate repairs would be done and I believe people in the area are adhering to the government’s instructions to make sure lives and properties are secure. At the end of the day, when all these have been put in place, the committee will come out with its findings.
Are you saying the cause of the explosion has not been discovered?
The cause of the explosion has been discovered but has not been made public.
Was it a bomb explosion?
It was not a bomb explosion. The magnitude of the explosion would have created a very massive hole that would make everyone know truly there was an explosion there. We also found out that if it was a bomb, the pipeline would have been shattered but there was no shattering of the pipe. That tells you it was not a bomb blast.
You said victims were given monetary assistance including payment of hospital bills. But I spoke to some victims who said they have not received any form of help from government?
When the explosion occurred, we had to gather information, data and so many other things. Those who came forward with information about themselves were given monetary assistance and some other relief materials. Even National Emergency Agency, NEMA, distributed relief materials. Lagos State government also did the same through the Lagos State Emergency Agency, LASEMA. Victims were given a lot of things to enable them to carry on with their lives.
We have had cases where some people came and told us they were among those affected but we didn’t have a record of them. When they came and people couldn’t identify them as genuine members of the community, they were attended to. If those you spoke to can approach any member of the committee, their case would be brought forward and they would be compensated.
Was the committee able to determine the real owners of the affected properties?
Yes, we were able to determine those who owned the properties that were destroyed by the explosion. All the owners came forward, especially through the help of the Community Development Associations, CDAs, and the landlord associations.
What other things did the committee recommend?
Through this committee, government has decided to build a fire service station, water cooperation, health centre, Lagos State Transport Management Agency, LASTMA, post to control traffic in the area, and a town hall for community activities among other things.
Government is also doing a befitting road across the community. It was the governor who decided to construct the road. When he visited the scene of the incident, he realised that one of the major reasons people were trapped was the lack of access road to the area. Immediately the governor saw it, he said there would be an access road with a bridge linking other parts of the area such as Ijedodo, Ijegun and Ikotun areas.
Besides, there is also a plan for another access road from Soba to FESTAC Town. With that, instead of passing through the expressway, you can pass through the road and link up to the areas. I will tell you categorically that works have commenced in earnest on the road. The markings and other preparatory phases have been done. The contractor has already moved to the site from the Ijedodo end, coming down to Soba. I know that in no distant time, before the end of this year, the road will be completed.
1000 housing units
The state government is also interfacing with its agencies to give the place a very befitting facelift. Plans are already underway by government to restructure and rebuild the area by bringing another fantastic housing scheme within the community. The state will build about 1000 housing units for the people there. Government is coming to redesign the area and make adjustments to accommodate the existing ones.
Today, we would be having the first-anniversary memorial of the explosion. It is to appreciate what God has been able to do and for those of us who survived the explosion. We will be there to commiserate with the families of those who lost their loved ones. Government is also thinking of making a monument in honour of deceased victims.